Charleston Air Force Base

Charleston Air Force Base

1941 –

The cold-war base served as host to the 456th Troop Carrier Wing, flying and maintaining C-119 aircraft, known as “Flying Box Cars.” It provided support and intelligence data during the Cuban missile crisis and later transported supplies and troops to Vietnam.

In 1941, just prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor, the U.S. Army took over Charleston Municipal Airport to develop an air base to train B-24 crews. In 1943 the base was reassigned to Air Transport Command to train flight crews for transport aircraft. Following the conclusion of the war the base was deactivated. During the Korean conflict the base was refurbished for $28 million and rededicated in late 1953, becoming a major link in the nation’s Military Air Transport Service.

The cold-war base served as host to the 456th Troop Carrier Wing, flying and maintaining C-119 aircraft, known as “Flying Box Cars.” It provided support and intelligence data during the Cuban missile crisis and later transported supplies and troops to Vietnam. Charleston Air Force Base planes also provided medical support to troops in Indochina and evacuated the wounded back to the United States. In 1993 it became the first U.S. Air Force base to receive the massive C-17 aircraft, which led to ten years of extensive renovations and modernization, including new facilities and flight simulators along with new housing for personnel. By the 1990s the base’s host unit was the 437th Airlift Wing, operating aircraft to provide logistical and troop support to Operation Desert Storm (1990–1991) and the Balkans Crisis (1995–1999). Early in the twenty-first century, the base was providing support to U.S. initiatives in the Middle East, the Balkans, and Afghanistan. During fiscal year 1999, active-duty and reserve personnel numbering 7,595 were stationed at Charleston Air Force Base and providing an estimated annual economic impact to local communities of $439 million.

University of South Carolina Legacy Project. The Cold War in South Carolina, 1945–1991: An Inventory of Department of Defense Cold War Era Cultural and Historical Resources in the State of South Carolina; Final Report. Vol. 3, The Department of the Air Force in South Carolina. Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md.: Legacy Resource Management Program, United States Department of Defense, 1995.

Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Title Charleston Air Force Base
  • Coverage 1941 –
  • Author
  • Keywords US Army, Charleston airport, aircraft,
  • Website Name South Carolina Encyclopedia
  • Publisher University of South Carolina, Institute for Southern Studies
  • URL
  • Access Date October 5, 2022
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update July 20, 2022
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